Classified US-UK trade documents leaked ahead of December’s general election were stolen from the email account of former trade minister Liam Fox by suspected Russian hackers, Reuters has reported.
Two sources told the wire that the hackers had accessed the account multiple times between July 12 and October 21 last year.
They declined to name which Russian group or organisation they believed was responsible, but said the attack bore the hallmarks of a state-backed operation.
Among the stolen information were six tranches of documents detailing British trade negotiations with the United States, which were touted by the then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as evidence of a Government plot to sell the NHS to the US as part of trade deal talks – something Boris Johnson has repeatedly denied.
When approached at the time, Labour refused to say whether it had obtained the documents from Reddit or via other means.
In a statement issued a week after the press conference, Reddit said it had banned some 61 accounts which appeared to show a “pattern of co-ordination” that suggested they were part of a group known as “Secondary Infektion”, which has been linked to Moscow.
Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary. last month accused “Russian actors” of amplifying the documents to interfere in the election.
In a written ministerial statement released shortly before the long-awaited report into Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum was published, Mr Raab said “extensive analysis” had led the Government to conclude “it is almost certain” that Russians tried to meddle in the 2019 General Election.
He said the trade documents had been “illicitly acquired” before the election and disseminated online via the social media platform Reddit.
Dr Fox’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
However, a Cabinet Office spokesman said: “There is an ongoing criminal investigation into how the documents were acquired, and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this point.
“But, as you would expect, the Government has very robust systems in place to protect the IT systems of officials and staff.”
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